Anyone who has run around their backyard pretending to be Indiana Jones has probably dreamed of going on a real-life treasure hunt, complete with an old map, rusty chest, and hidden dangers. But that’s all fantasy, right? Someone who asks, “Where can I find treasure in the real world?” can’t be sincere, can they? Alas, there are plenty of famous lost treasures of the ancient world, some of which have been recently found. Modern treasure-hunters don’t use whips and cool hats as much as knowledge of ancient languages and radar, but there are still plenty of lost treasures that can still be found hiding in the darkest crevices of caves, under the ocean, or in ancient temples. Here are some legendary lost treasure stories about missing historical artifacts or piles of gold!
Ancient Undiscovered Treasures
The longer the treasure is hidden, the less likely it is that it has at one point been discovered or been outed as a hoax. Sometimes, ancient missing treasures are stumbled upon by looters. In rare cases, such as in the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, we got lucky. But there are still quite a few legendary treasures of the world from ancient times floating around out there. Even though it’s more likely that real treasure-hunters resemble your local college’s dean, a Chinese government official, or a Coptic expert rather than Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, or Nathan Drake, potential adventures still await the enterprising historian:
- The Ark of the Covenant: Yes, it’s a real legend, and no, it’s never been found. It’s one of the most important missing religious artifacts ever and the source of arguably more obsession than the Holy Grail.
- The Copper Scroll: This is an old treasure map made from copper found along with another treasure: the Dead Sea Scrolls. It lists 64 locations where one can find gold and silver hidden in and around Jerusalem.
- The Emperor’s Seal: Fashioned from a historically important piece of jade, this seal was used by the emperor as a signature. It’s one of China’s most important artifacts before it disappeared.
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Underwater and Real Pirate Treasures
If you like diving more than you enjoy linguistics and archaeology, perhaps you’d rather find a real treasure chest in one of the undiscovered sunken treasure ships not found for generations.
- Blackbeard’s Treasure: Supposedly, the infamous (and real) pirate stashed some gold in his travels. After finding his ship, though, historians were disappointed. Perhaps it’s somewhere else.
- The Treasure of Lima: Yes, it’s actual buried treasure on a real treasure island, stolen by a British trader on his way back from Peru.
- The Crown Jewels of England: King John (the Magna Carta King) lost his treasures in 1215 as rising tides took away his luggage.
Lost Treasures in the United States and Nearby
Are there any real treasure maps that could lead to your backyard? The plot of Goonies isn’t likely to happen, but there are quite a few supposed lost treasures never found in America.
- Forrest Fenn’s Treasure: A real-life scavenger hunt of unfound treasure, this poetic puzzle, written by an art dealer, is worthy of a novelization.
- Montezuma’s Treasure: As Cortes hunted down the last of the Aztec Empire’s nobility, the king forced his slaves to carry off his gold from Mexico into the United States.
- Oak Island Money Pit: Nova Scotia is home to a supposed incredible treasure. It has already has been drilled for twice and has brought several people to their graves.
But remember this: True treasures aren’t always gold or the result of a great treasure hunt through caves and secret temples. Often, it’s the temples themselves or the historic items found along the way, hints of greater knowledge hidden in lost historical artifacts. See our list of lost treasures, and plan to find your own treasures at your local museum or library today!